I hate couponing. No seriously, I really hate it. The fact that I extreme coupon has completely shocked most of my friends and family because I am the least likely person to ever do something like this. I am the most reluctant couponer that probably has ever existed, and I only coupon because it allows me to achieve a a different goal (donate a lot of food to food banks). Believe me, I fully understand the epic irony of someone who hates to coupon writing a guide on how to do it. That being said, because I dislike couponing as much as I do, I've learned to make it as absolutely painless as possible — something that I can hopefully share with you.
I do not coupon like other couponers out there. I refuse to spend hours clipping, sorting and organizing coupons (I'd rather have a dentist work on my teeth with no Novocaine). I do not try to get every deal out there or use every coupon that crosses my path. The truth is that I will only use a small percentage of the coupons that I end up gathering. At this moment I have absolutely no idea what coupons I have (and quite frankly, I like it that way). Despite this, I was able to eat well on $1 a day for 100 days.
If you like to organize and are willing to spend the time looking for every deal out there, this coupon guide is not for you. There are plenty of super couponers out there who will be glad to go into every minute detail to show you the ins and outs of how to do anything related to couponing. I am most definitely not the person to teach that. On the other hand, if you happen to live a pretty busy lifestyle and want to cut your shopping bills without spending a whole lot more time shopping than you already do, then this guide may be able to help you out a little bit.
Before We Even Start
Before we even get into the couponing, there are two basic premises that you will need to embrace if you are going to get anything out of this couponing guide. If for any reason you don't want to take either of these necessary steps, don't bother reading any further after making that decision. Unfortunately, everything else you learn will be made far less useful (and therefore a waste of your time — believe me, the last thing I want to do is waste your time).
First, realise that you are going to have to spend some upfront time to learn how to do this. Just like you would never expect to walk onto a tennis court for the first time and be a pro, there is a learning curve to how to coupon to maximize the deals you get. You will need to practice. You will make some mistakes. You will get better at it over time, because if I could, absolutely anyone can.
While couponing appears to be simple from the outside (and actually is once you learn the rules), the way that you currently think coupons work is probably completely wrong. That means you are going to have to spend some time learning and practicing new couponing rules that allow you to maximise your savings. The good news is that if you are willing to put in this upfront time, you should actually spend less time shopping than you do now, and cut the amount you spend by 50% or more (all while being able to purchase a lot more food).
Second, you need to be willing to shop in a way that is in your best interest. While this sounds like something that everyone would instantly say “yes, of course I want to do that,” the reality is that very few people do. Doing so will likely require a significant change to how you currently shop. If you are reading this, the chances are overwhelming that you are currently shopping the way grocery stores and manufacturers hope you will shop, not in your own best interest.
Manufacturers hope that on your way home from work, you have decided what you want to cook for dinner. Having decided what you are going to make, you will go to the store and buy the things that you need. If you shop like this, you are shopping exactly the way that the grocery stores want you to shop.
Maybe you are a little bit more organized and you know what you want to eat for the entire week and have made out a shopping list to get all the things that you are going to need. Even though this may appear better than deciding each night, you are still shopping the way that grocery stores and manufacturers want you to shop.
You may even take it a step further to where you look at the grocery store fliers each week and see what are the best deals and then plan your grocery shopping around those best deals to save money. While this is better than planning without knowing the weekly deals, this is still shopping in a way that grocery stores and manufacturers hope that you will shop.
The reason that grocery stores and manufacturers love it when you shop like the above mentioned ways is that you are basing your purchasing decision on what you are going to eat. This inevitably means that you will be buying things that are at full retail price. Even when you look at the store advertisements and base your meals around what is on sale, there will still be ingredients that you will need to purchase to make the meals that aren't at their best price. If you plan your meals by what you want to have, you have already lost the grocery shopping game and pay far more than you should.
The way that the grocery stores and manufacturers don't want you to shop is to only purchase the very best deals available each week and nothing else. The way to accomplish this is to plan your meals from what you already have in your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards (your stockpile of food). When you begin to plan all your meals on what you already have on hand, then there is no longer any need to purchase anything at full price. In fact, the only time you need to purchase any item is when it is at the very best price you can get it.
This simple change in the way that you shop will instantly save you 50% or more. In fact, this change is far more powerful than couponing, although the addition of couponing will further reduce the amount you spend on food. If, however, this is a change that you are not willing to make, you are probably better off not even bothering to read any further. While coupons can still save you money without this change, the savings will be minimal and you will quickly grow tired of using them due to the seeming small amount that they help you save (Don't believe me? Then why aren't you couponing right now?) Once you make this fundamental grocery shopping change, you take the control away from the store on how much you spend each week and give that power to yourself.
How easy it will be to get to this stage will be heavily dependant on what you currently have in your food stockpile. There is a high probability that you will not be able to make the change 100% from day one, but you should begin to move in that direction from the start. It probably also means that you are going to have to do a bit of pantry organizing since you will begin to stockpile non perishable items when they are a good deal.
If you are willing to make this change in the way that you plan your meals and spend a little time upfront to learn and practice, you will have put in place the two necessary keys to much greater savings while grocery shopping. Again, it probably will be impossible to implement this strategy instantaneously (it can be done, but I can tell you from personal experience that would be pretty painful), but you should begin shooting for this goal over a period of a few months.
What You Will Need
While it may be possible to succeed while not having some of the following, to make it as easy and convenient as possible, these are the tools that you will need:
1. A computer & printer
2. Sunday newspaper coupon inserts
3. $20 for practice money
If you have any questions along the way, feel free to ask them and I will do my best to answer them. If not, you can move onto The First Month
Other parts to the Lazy Couponing Guide:
Collecting Sunday Newspaper Inserts
Picking A Grocery Store
Matching Coupons To Sales
Finding Coupons For Your Grocery List